Features Jul 31, 2013 at 4:00 am

The Staff of The Stranger on the Weirdest Work We've Ever Done (Not Counting Working at The Stranger)

Brian Taylor


I've had some bad jobs, but I think the worst was data entry, only because it was so mind-numbingly boring. Fortunately, the boss let us wear headphones to play our own music while we worked. That was the only way I could tolerate it!
these are your worst jobs???
I spent a summer working odd jobs at a temp agency. jobs I had included painting the insides of ATM's - actually not painting anything, just masking off parts that weren't supposed to be painted - for 10 hours a day. Then I worked in the freezer of an ice cream factory, stacking pallets of ice cream, in a fucking FREEZER. The only other person working in my area was some meth addict who drank Steel Reserve on his lunch break. Then I finished off that summer hand washing about a hundred RV's at some huge mega dealership.
I have *always* tipped my motel/hotel maid. It's a shit job. When I saty a week or less, I usually leave a $20. It's not enough, but it's what I can afford.
I had a minor crush on Aliya too. And I'm a straight woman.
I'm originally from Denver and while I only visited the Citadel mall in the Springs a few times, I do remember it... and I feel really sorry for bunny suit guy.

I had a bunch of odd jobs throughout my youth, work ethic didn't hit me until my late 20's - florist, admin, reception, call center, etc. The worst was definitely my first job as super Kmart cashier, nothing but the lowest of society shops at places like that. I was constantly hit on by men MUCH older than me and being the last person the customer see's, I had to hear everyone's complaints. Listen people, if you're going to shop at a place like that, don't expect the teenage cashier to give any shits about your whining.
High school, we were so excited when Sonic Drive-In came to our little Arizona town. Jobs.

I applied to be a car hop and got the job. Except it was to be a car hop like in Happy Days...with roller skates. I hadn't skated in years and worse, they built the place on an incline which meant car hops had full trays of food, going downhill coming out the door.

They ended that practice pretty quickly and we walked.

I also hated people who threw ketchup and mustard packets out the window and ran over them to see me have to clean them up.
Bethany, that gave me goosebumps. SO good. Thanks.
White River Junction is actually pretty big for a town in Vermont, the biggest in the area.
Telesurveying in Madison, WI. I had moved thither from California, needed a quick job, hit the temp agency, and they sent me to make follow-up calls to Ameritech customers. At first, it wasn't terrible. But the second week was a blur, reading the same script over and over again. The worst was that most of the time when they started answering the questions, it was because they thought I was actually from Ameritech and could help solve whatever problem they were having. I couldn't. On lunch break, I would go outside and listen to this one guy talk about how he'd been there 13 years, that he knew how to get people to not hang up, that he was the best employee there. I had assumed everyone was a temp, making ends meet until something better came along. I had to leave. I landed a factory job, and then ended up at Union Cab a while later. Driving a cab was decent.
I've been a tour guide in a cave, an asshole who confiscated and poured out college students' beer, and a collector of spit from high school juniors. I also had a short-term gig counting out brand new dollar bills into bundles of 100 so they could be glued together.
I worked in a Nordstrom warehouse prepping merchandise for stores -- which mostly meant using a tag gun to put those hangy tags on women's clothes. It was boring, repetitive and meant standing all day, but it was inside and there was little chance of death.

There was also my years at a North Seattle Little Caesar's. The day we had to talk down the co-worker whose room-mate had dosed him with acid before work "as a joke". The illicit manager-hot teenage co-worker sex in the office and the things that went under the cheese if you pissed us off...

And, similar to Paul, the knowledge that you would NEVER not smell like pizza.
One summer in high school I worked in a pet store, cleaning the animal cages, including the aquariums. One morning I came in to an entire cage full of dead finches (never any explanation, apparently "it just happens to finches"); another day I was bitten by the resident parrot. I regularly got a mouth full of gross fish-poopy aquarium water because the little suction device I used to clean the tanks required mouth suction to start.
Other worst job: conducting customer surveys for a local hospital group via phone. Not bad for the most part, but at least twice a night I'd hear a horrible tale about a diagnosis or treatment gone wrong that resulted in death, maiming or unnecessarily long recovery. This one wasn't physically demanding, just emotionally scarring.
I worked a lot of crappy jobs when I was young but the worst was the four years at an iron foundry in my home town of Lodi, CA. I was a core maker and it was a boring and dangerous job. God knows what nasty stuff I inhaled during that time. The one good thing about that job was that it gave me the drive and ambition to go back to college. I haven't worked for a living since.
I grew up on a dairy farm in east King County, so I spent a lot of hours with cow manure. My worst moment was we had a series of 6 inch pipes that pumped liquid manure down the hill and out a nozzle or "gun" that shot the manure 100' in a circle. We would have to move it every few hours to get the manure spread around the field. the nozzle, which was only 1 inch, sometimes became plugged with wood chips from the cow's bedding, which was sawdust and chips. As a lazy teen, I went down to investigate a plugged gun with a long screwdriver with properly bleeding all the back pressure out of the line. I cleared the chip and was knocked backward by a wall of manure that hit my fast and chest. I had manure in my nostrils, ears, mouth and hair.

Other bad jobs that were close runners up:
cleaning tar out of the tar tanks at Pabco roofing with jackhammers and air chisels. I picked tar out of my body hair for days after.

Burger King: When a plastic sack of frozen patties burst at the bottom spilling patties all over the floor my boss told me to pick them up and throw them on the grill. Later I got a 3rd degree burn cleaning the flame grill and he made me continue working. The scar is still visible 24 years later.

Commercial fishing during the Valdez Spill year:
The fisheries all closed, so we had nothing to do and sat alone at a remote cannery for weeks with no human interaction and single radio station that covered every genre with hour slices.
I really like the quote from Brendan Kiley's story, paraphrasing The P-I editor Glenn Drosendahl:
My job interview mostly consisted of him asking if I was studying journalism, me squirming in my seat before sheepishly admitting I was an anthropology major, and him—to my surprise—beaming. "Good!" he said (more or less—I'm paraphrasing). "No real journalists major in journalism! If you want to be a reporter, major in anything else: history, biology, literature. Study something useful while you have the chance. You can figure out newspapers as you go."
Wonderful advice. Sage.

These were all really entertaining, and I vaguely recall The Stranger doing a feature much like this a few years ago. I'd like to read it again as a follow-up, but sadly I don't recall any details or I'd google it myself.

For the record, my worst is still my first: a screen printing shop. It was a summer job that took place around a 500-degree oven that baked the ink onto the shirts. The boss, when he chose to show up, seemed to do so for the sole purpose of leering at any female customers we had. Typically this was done right at the front desk, while smoking cigars that smelled very similar to the dog turds his ever-present Spaniel supplied for me to clean up.
"...it was inside and there was little chance of death."

#11 - very good qualities in a job, indeed.
I once worked for a street-corner laundry, ironing shirts and delivering flyers. We used ancient industrial irons that were too old to safely function - they spat a lot and the store owner had replaced their safety fuses with bits of wire to keep them working. At least the flyering part wasn't dangerous and got me both exercise and an intimate knowledge of certain residential neighbourhoods in West London. I did so much thinking about the whys and wherefores of front gardens. I also bunked off and sat on street corners to read a lot.
I spent 4 summers from 12-16 detassling corn in IL. That was pretty bad, but the only legit work you could get that young living out in the country. It's cold and wet in the morning, as you're either walking or being dragged through the corn, complete with bugs and big spider webs. By noon it was 115 degrees with no shade.
One summer home from college, I worked at a temp agency and was placed at a plastics factory. My job was to watch dental toothpicks drop out of a machine 6 at a time and inspect for defects. The machine did not stop for lunch or breaks, so there would be a huge pile when I got back. That was the worst.
OK, so what's so bad about the Foam Sales job? Seriously, it doesn't sound like a bad job at all. Boring? Perhaps. Bad? Go clean toilets.
Since I started working when I was 14 and am 50 now I've had many horrible jobs.

One was making commercials for a small TV station. Terrible, you say? It became a living nightmare because one client owned a toy store. "Toy store? That's awesome!" you say. No. Because along with schlepping all the camera, lights, and props all over I had to ACT in these commercials. And the toy store had a "mascot." A giant teddy bear. They desperately wanted this bear in their ads. So my boss found the most grotesque flea riddled giant stuffed bear costume for me to wear with gigantic twenty pound stuffed head. This was in August. During a heat wave. And we shot in a non air conditioned warehouse or worse outside in a play ground.

The store owner hired a couple dozen little kids - gave them Wiffle ball bats and bad mitten rackets - and would have them chase me around. Oh. And we had to simulate fast motion - this was long before easy digital effects editing - so I had to run around like a lunatic in the suit getting beaten mercilessly by a dozen children for about 12 hours two or three days a week. At first the padded suit would protect me from them. But eventually as the stuffing soaked with sweat their little blows started to ad up. I'd be screaming at them but they could hear me through the huge head piece.

I can not describe the unrelenting dread of getting up at 4am to prep for those shoots knowing what horror lay ahead for you. So I started drinking the night before just so I could sleep. Heavily.

Then one morning I woke up sick as a dog. A combination of anxiety, flue and hangover. I tried to call in sick but my boss freaked out at me.

So I show up at about 5am. Set up the gear, go get coffee and snacks for the shooter, and then drive the van to pick up a bunch of kids. Then I go slowly don my bear suit crying like a death row inmate having to strap himself down to the chair. It was like the metaphorical opposite of the "gear up" scene you'd see in a Stallone action move. My guts literally churning.

So the day was proceeded like some demented level in Dante's hell. I am dying of heat stroke. Running around in fast motion. Getting beaten by children. And. AND. This is no exaggeration - SHITTING MY PANTS and choking down my own vomit inside a sweat soaked stinking bear suit for eight hours until I pass out - shit running down my legs.

To this day I am struck blind with PTSD when I see children in play grounds.
I think my worst job ever had to be the summer I spent as a traffic flagger for road construction. I would stand in the direct sunlight for 4-12 hours per day. I spent most of the time being bored out of my mind, interrupted by bouts of being harrassed by traffic, being harrassed by the male construction workers, almost getting run over by crazy & impatient drivers. And I can't forget how impossible it was on long days to get 10 minutes to run to the bathroom, and how when someone did come to give me 5 minutes to pee how it came with some degrading comment about being a woman. I would go back to working the graveyard shift with a 2 hour bus commute or cleaning hotel rooms before I ever worked road construction again.
@Cracker Jack -

I was with you until this:
The illicit manager-hot teenage co-worker sex in the office and the things that went under the cheese if you pissed us off...
There is never an excuse to fuck with people's food this way. You are scum.
It was either scraping asbestos from ceilings in Beverly Hills for the summer or working as a janitor. The janitor job was o.k. for a while. I don't drink, so that gave me an edge. But I came in one day and my boss accused me of stealing a water cooler from one of the offices I cleaned. A water cooler!?! I was stunned. I'm not a thief and nobody ever accused me of it before. How could I prove I didn't steal something? So I resigned. When I came for my last check they told me the water cooler had been moved by somebody to another office. But I thought to myself I'd be accused again sure as hell if I stuck around.
Loved Charles Mudede's story.

My worst job: repairing the inside of wing tanks.

For a few years, I was an aircraft mechanic in the military. Early 1980s. I was young and rail-thin, probably about 110 pounds at the time. I was the skinniest guy in the squadron. So, whenever a leak developed in a wing fuel tank, I was sent in to repair it, primarily because I was one of the only guys small enough to squeeze inside of a wing tank.

They would drain the tank, but some fuel still remained, trapped between framing ribs. Even with a breather mask, the fuel vapors would almost cause me to pass out. There was only a few inches of clearance, so I had to crawl on my belly, soaking my clothes in the residual aviation fuel. It was completely dark, except for a (hopefully) spark-proof flashlight. And hot; there was no ventilation. I had to carefully use only custom-made plastic and brass hand tools; one spark and the whole tank would have exploded with me trapped on my belly inside.

Not a job for the claustrophobic. Thankfully, fuel tank leaks were fairly rare, and I only had to do this about five times over the course of several years. Even 30 years later, the experience is seared into my brain, hopefully never to be repeated.
Not my worst job—my worst job was cold calling people that entered (or didn't) into a sweepstakes, which was really a ruse to get people into a timeshare seminar thinking they've won a prize. I still remember part of the script, and probably will forever. Some days I'd just let the machine dial, hang up when the person answered, let it dial someone else, hang up, repeat, for hours—but my most difficult job was working at a laminate counterpart factory in Georgetown.

It was an entry level position in shipping, but it was something like $9 or $11 per hour, which was a good prospect at the time. My job was to build shipping crates, wipe the marker and glue off the countertops that came off the line, load them into crates and onto trucks. The pneumatic guns were fun to use, the industrial table saw made me nervous (I’ll spare the details), but the lacquer thinner—practically bathing in the stuff, that was the real bummer.

You couldn’t wear gloves because your hands would rot from the sweat, so just dunking and gripping the soaked rags I used to wipe down the tops with, my kidneys must have taken a beating. One day the bosses knew OSHA was coming, and everyone’s job on the floor were hilariously different. Pretty much nothing got done until they left.

But none of that is the worst part, neither was getting up before 5am to take two buses (Greenwood to Georgetown, not impossible, but not quick), and neither was the time I ended up on a local news hidden camera segment proving whether or not people in Seattle were assholes, covered in glue and box cutter cuts in my factory clothes, half asleep after a shift transferring at Westlake from the #74 to the #5, and apparently opting for the “yes, they are assholes” option—the worst part was the isolation, or, sense of isolation. I’ll explain…

Face masks were optional, and not at all practical, but goggles and earplugs, those stiff ones you buy in boxes of 1,000 pairs, were mandatory and a no-brainer. Although there was 30 other guys within sight (viewed through goggle with foggy spots from where lacquer thinner melted them), it was absolute silence with those Nerf pellets showed into my head. I’ve got a pretty damn active imagination, I’m almost NEVER bored—typing this from a very quiet office somewhat removed from the bustling cubicle area of my floor now, and I love it—but there was days that noon, or 1pm—sometimes I’d make it longer—would roll around and it’d hit me hard that I’d already thought of just about everything I could possible think of. I’ve already played games with myself, worked out all the shit I’d ever wondered about… and there I was still, building crates and wiping off Formica countertops, the low hum of a factory in the background, and not a single goddamn thing to think about. I might have well been in a pitch black room, or like that scene in THX1138, just walking and walking and walking… nothingness. It’s not a feeling I’ve had since, I if I play my cards right, never will again.

I did that for 9 months, but I’m realizing now I’ve probably got about 12 more paragraphs of stories about my brief employment there.
"Phil Collins" isn't *the* Phil Collins, he's obviously an American fake. English people call ATMs "cash points", and they don't have RVs as such, they have caravans. Fake.
Dishwasher. Yeah, probably lots of people washed dishes "professionally" as a teenager. But what made this one special was the location: a bad Indian restaurant in the U District. So as I walked home at 1:30 AM, on top of the grease, sweat, detergent, and bleach smells coating every crevice of my body, was the unwash-off-able stench of bad curry.

Surprisingly, twenty years later, I love me some good (good!) chicken tandoori or masoor dal or even curry.
It's a toss up between the telemarketing gig I got the summer after graduating high school-- trying to sell $400+ vitamin sets, shampoo crap, etc., with the big selling point that the customer may have won some great vacation or jewelry or something. One time I showed up at work and they passed out all the lead cards we were to call, only to collect all of them 5 minutes later. They then announce that we're changing locations- NOW - and they do roll call. One of the other telemarketers wasn't there and the bosses told the guy's friends to tell him he didn't need to bother coming to work anymore. Then they give us the new address and we had to switch to that location immediately. Nothing shady there. A couple years later article came out that they were affiliated with the mafia and had been shut down.

Wish I could say that was it but the most recent job I had was sales for a crappy startup software company. Talked to one retailer who asked me in earnest if the product would hold up, because if not, she would lose her job. A part of me died as I told her that the software was great which I knew was a lie. Alas, selling my soul so I could have a paycheck and survive vs being virtuous. I'll never take for granted having a decent product to sell again..
I've had my share of pretty bad jobs, most of them in sales of some sort, which I'm awful at. The job which will sound the worst to most people, though, was a lot of fun for the 17-year-old nerd that was me.

I got a summer job as a technician at a vibration and shock testing laboratory for the aerospace industry, government contracts, mostly. Large test platforms were hooked up to electromagnetic "shakers" that were pretty much just a giant industrial version of the coil and magnet of a speaker. They ran on audio amplifiers that pumped out a quarter million watts of power. When the tests were in progress, you couldn't go into the test chambers. Even with ear protection. The control rooms were almost too loud to converse in, and they were seriously soundproofed from the test chambers.

The giant amplifiers ran on giant tubes, half the size of me, it seemed. They had to be changed regularly, which involved going inside the amplifier, carrying these big, fragile things with their heavy copper cooling fins and trying to manipulate yourself and it in a very cramped space, after making sure the power was well and truly off. The senior technicians loved telling the story of the guy who got seriously burned, and somehow lived.

The weekend of Woodstock, there I was, pulling double shifts both days, minding a piece of Saturn 5 rocket that was being tested, while my bosses were away at the festival.
I have had every terrible job known to man.

In high school, while everyone else was working fun jobs at DQ or McDonalds I was digging ditches. Literally digging ditches, trenches, and short tunnels, with a shovel. I would work 5-7am, go to school filthy and smelly, then go back to the work site at 3pm and work another couple hours.

I was also the Midnight to 8am clerk at a hardcore, booths and viewing rooms type porn shop. Do you know what kind of weirdos show up at a porn shop at 4 in the morning? Not the fun kind. I would get off work and go straight to class, which is a hard shift to make, in terms of dealing with people.
Worst job is a dead heat for me: I moved irrigation pipe in a wheat field at 5AM in hip waders filled with gross fertilizer and said water. I also worked as a late night clerk at a porn store on Sprague in Spokane in the 90's.
@23: The worst I did was anchovies. Others were not as tame. I am not proud of the poor choices I made as a teen working a minimum wage job, but if you think these events are uncommon, you'd better not eat out anymore.
Door-to-door for the environment for WashPIRG. Puget Sound area (and Bellingham), I am so, so sorry. I'd work 6-hour shifts in strange neighborhoods with no bathroom breaks, was offered a job stripping, treated as a hooker, and threatened by a man in a Hummer that he would run me down for "taking food from [his] family's mouths". Every time I reported this stuff, managers told me it wasn't that bad. After ten weeks I just stopped showing up. A month later I realized they were paying below minimum wage and dangling the unreachable carrot of commission in front of all of us, and I hope they all burn.
Door to door sales for cheap shit marketed to businesses. Like, convince them to let me place a sample and order forms in their cafeteria, then I come back and fill the orders. The merchandise was Dollar Store level crap; cheap knife sets and junk like that. $5 gets you one, $10 gets you three. I got like 33% flat, paid as an independent contractor. I did that for about a summer when I was 18. When I found out it was entry level for some multi-level marketing crap, I was outta there.

Second worst was a weekend security guard at a suburban office complex in Connecticut, which I pulled as a second job for about a year plus. Lovely and scenic, but oh Lord was it boring for the majority of that first year. 8am-6pm, Sunday and Saturday. Easiest job in the world, but brain numbing. Walk the building every hour. Walk the building perimeter every other hour. Walk the grounds every third hour. I walked a lot. You'd think; that's not bad, for about 25% over minimum wage. But do that again and again and again. You're walking laps, and there is no contact with others. At all. No one came. No one went. Once in a while a deer might walk by my window. Once a sparrow flew face first into a window and exploded. I had to hose sparrow chunks off into the bushes.

Although, that latter job in a very loopy and weird set of circumstances (including my being a fake Mormon ringer for a Mormon temple basketball league) led to my current very happy coming up on 15 years professional IT career.
A buddy of mine in college was the mop guy for the booths at a porn shop. He always won these story contests.
Shoveling human shit was the worst job I ever had.

As a teenager I worked in the summers at a wilderness camp, the sort of place where there were only outhouse-style pit toilets. State law required that pit toilets be lined in concrete and have separate vaults for men and women (never figured that one out). Ours did not have these but our camp was grandfathered in *for the ones we already had*. So when one was filling up, we had to dig a large hole reasonably nearby, then make a trench to the current location, then dig into the side of a giant hole containing vast amounts of human shit. If you did it right you could get everything to flow downhill into the new pit, but frequently not, and even if you did it was necessary to get it started.

So. Much. Shit.
I sold cemetery plots over the phone, cold-calling, when I was still in high school, from a list a recently-widowed or -widowered persons provided by mortuaries. Minimum wage.
One St. Patrick's Day in the coffee shop a customer we called "The Leprechaun" (5 feet tall, 250 lb, bright red hair and full beard) was drunk and bothering other customers, and when I tapped him on the shoulder and started to say "excuse me, sir, I'm sorry, but I have to ask you to leave" he turned and vomited several gallons of green beer and corned beef all down my front, from my nipples to my shoes. I was wearing all white that day, and we were short-handed so I had to run into the kitchen and quickly wash my shirt and pants as best as I could in the dishwasher, wring them out, and work the rest of the shift in wet clothes. But I get to tell people truthfully that a leprechaun vomited on me on St. Patrick's Day.

A different day in the same coffee shop a junkie coworker snuck up behind me while I was tallying the day's receipts and bashed my head with one of those foot-long pepper grinders. Unfortunately for him my skull is four inches thick and he got nothing but jail time. A few years ago he murdered his grandfather and got sent away for life.

Also a bad job: digging up an old septic tank and sewer line. Or dragging a hundred million 100-pound packs of asphalt tiles up to a roof on the hottest week of summer.

When I lived in New York my bosses were three mental but very, very rich Venezuelan brothers who ate at "21" every night and squired Miss Venezuela around the clubs, but treated their employees like dirt. Especially the brother who never did any work except smoking cigarettes and cutting the occasional article out of the newspaper. I ended up sharing an apartment with him, out of desperation, wherein I spent most nights cowering in my 6x10 foot room listening to him watch war documentaries on his giant TV with the volume up full blast, and spank the crap out of his submissive Japanese girlfriend. MMMMMRRRRRROOOOOOWWWWWWW the B-47s screamed low over Dresden BOOOOM BOOOOM BOOOOM SMACK SMACK SMACK OH SERGIO NO NO SMACK SMACK OH SERGIO OOOHHH. Or he'd corner me in the apartment and whisper that he was going to kill me if I ever told his brothers he was back on cocaine.

But the worst was probably the Nazi house restorer who kept his crew working 18-20 hours a day, fed us cocaine to keep our speed up, and paid us cash out of a briefcase with guns in it. He demanded that we call him "the Ram Rod". One day he accused me of ruining the paint job in the kitchen with my incompetent prep work. After a good hour of throbbing neck-vein screaming he fired me. The next day he called and casually mentioned that it turned out it was the other guy's fault, and asked if I'd like to come back to work. I said no.
Jen Graves - I do not understand you.

For me, the worst may have been the thrift store where the manager - who stole charity donations for kids to give to his own offsquirts for Christmas (and was the owner's son) - always had the radio dial set to the worst rock-country music EXCEPT when he'd put on the macarana (during the 90's craze) and require workers to dance (dance!) around while marking customer purchases off 50%. I didn't do this. I hid in the changing rooms.

OR was it working at a drug treatment center and having to collect UAs? Watching people pee at least 2x every shift and occasionally witnessing horrendous things or hear clients say "s'cuse me, I have the scoots" while stuck in a small room together?

Naw. The forced-macarana march wins hands down.
Oh, yeah, and I forgot to mention the job doing telephone market research for a jewelry store. Turns out people are just a little suspicious of people calling them out of the blue and asking them detailed questions about their jewelry-buying habits. Makes getting sworn at on Slog a breeze in comparison.
I worked as a research assistant at an unnamed hospital for an unnamed doctor who was investigating the effects of certain drugs on migraines. I worked 5 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm, sometimes 7 pm, and recieved a $5 an hour stipend. Typically I just did paperwork drudgery; I spent hours organizing massive boxes of billing forms and contact information after which the doctors and nurses rummaged through in an effort to locate a SPECIFIC document (despite me telling them I had implemented a simple and intuitive organizational system), leaving me to reorganize what I had just organized the next day on top of the other boxes that would be dropped off requiring organization.

Other times they would use me to calibrate their equipment they used to measure the intensity of their patients migraines. The device worked in this way: a sort of plastic wand with a ring at its tip would be lightly rested against the base of a patient's skull. At random intervals, it would send a short electromagnetic pulse through the brain while a series of electrodes would monitor brain activity and other vital signs. Imagine a piece of yarn, pulled taut and then energetically plucked. Every time that wand went off, I would feel this plucking sensation inside my skull, following a pathway that began at the base of my skull and ended just above my left temple.

The lead doctor was neurotic about ensuring that the machine was functioning properly and so they had me serve as a subject for calibrating this machine about 3 times a week. Each calibrating session consisted of 100 pulses, more or less. Eventually I actually DEVELOPED migraines that lasted long into the afternoons of calibration days.
Emily Nokes: per your revelation of your summer job.

"Irresponsible" hardly begins to describe your sixteen-year-old idiocy. People like you create needless barriers for other kids, who ARE NOT assholes, to get those rare summer jobs.

What an insufferable C**T!
@43, I guess we know what your worst job is: being a dick on the internet. Reviewing your comment history, I see that telling women what they're doing wrong is sorta a hobby of yours. Is that a Texas thing? A tenor thing? Or just a garden variety asswipe thing?
Working at Barnes & Noble was a great job, actually, until the day I had to pick up a turd from the bathroom floor. The LADIES' ROOM floor.

Mind-numbingly boring, and carpal-tunnel-inducing, was working at the Green Giant plant, breaking frozen ears of corn in half for 12-hour shifts, not being able to talk to anyone because of the loud machinery. But that paid $6.75 an hour way back 20 years ago, so that seemed pretty good to me as a young'un.

But really, the worst job ever was working the circulation desk at a small newspaper. The old people would start calling the second their paper wasn't there on time -- and I mean 7:00:01 am. And they were mean, so mean.
There is a job called "shakerboarder." I did this job for about a month in the winter of 2006, shaking a "$5 Hot & Ready!" sign outside a Little Caesar's by the freeway in North Portland, for hours in the rain and occasionally snow. Got paid cash under the table and free food sometimes, but I had to quit when I came down with a cold that wouldn't go away.
@45, the floor? You were lucky. At the coffee shop I mentioned above, I once had to clean human shit off the WALLS, where it had been smeared. Forgot about that one. The worst thing I ever had to clean out of the men's was broken glass out of the urinals (nearly every weekend, that). We shared toilets with San Jose's crustiest meat market disco.
@47, Yes, it not was that bad. But I always wondered ... how do you explain one little lonely turd on the ladies' room floor? Did someone stand up too fast? Someone's toddler took an adult-size crap and mommy didn't want to deal with it? It's a mystery.
@34 Oh man, I worked for them too. For like 2 days. My first day was "training", walking around with another guy who had been there a while. It was boring and kind of lame, but I thought I could deal with it. Day 2 I was on my own and had the cops called on me, a dog sicced on me, then to top it all off an old man opened up his front door with a rifle pointed at me and threatened to shoot me if I didn't get off of his property. I just never came back.
Doing collections for leased telephones.

All the "customers" I dealt with were dead (with their kids paying the bills), dying (sometimes literally as we spoke and they thought I was the ambulance), or were addled with had nobody to take care of them, to tell them to stop paying $20 dollars a month and buy a phone for $5.

Those rackets were sleazy as fuck. When I was eventually let go (and oh so happy) they were still opening new "rental stores" in extremely poor areas that Best Buys wouldn't touch and that wouldn't be able to afford computers to order online.
West of Dutch Harbor on a pollock processing barge, tied to another barge making fish fertilizer. 6hrs on, 6hrs off, 24/7, non stop...the pace of work was brutal. The stench from the fertilizer barge was unimaginable. Not even close to worth the money.
I've had this conversation with every former bathroom cleaner. Did you find that the women's bathroom was always way grosser than the men's room? Like seriously every shift finding shit on the walls, used tampons stuck to the door, totally fucked up shit?

@52-- NO. Not even. Working retail is when I first started to realize that men were totally disgusting. When I was delegated to cleaning the bathrooms at Barnes & Noble, I always sighed and put on a mask before entering the men's room. I mean, WHAT THE FUCK!???? Even in a nice bookstore in a mid-size Idaho town, in a town without homeless people, the men's room still always smelled like urine. Always!! And other than that one turd, the women's bathroom was always fine. I don't know who you've talked to, but sorry --- men's restrooms always smell way, WAAAAAAY worse than the women's.
#16 / Knat,

was it this one?


("We Lived to Serve, We Served to Live")
Lots of weird jobs in college, but the worst was the waitress at the Pancake restaurant. Mostly because, really, who wants to deal with a bunch of whiney kids who can't make up their minds on Sunday morning after partying Saturday night :)
My worst job was at the student union at UCLA. I was assigned to work the door at the room where students were signing up for classes to make sure they were registered for that semester. An older gentleman, to my eyes obviously UCLA staff member, asked if he could speak to a lady working at the computers, and I let him in. The guy in charge came out and chewed me out, asking what if the guy had a gun. If you want a security guard, hire a security guard and not a student!
I sold Tickets at the now defunct Fun Forest Amusement Park at the Seattle Center. It was a relic of the 1962 World's Fair and everything since then.
My first day of training I was told the customer is not always right, "the customer is always wrong, we have to make them right." We had to work without cash registers and got really quick with the math. That helped us figure out how to skim from the till too.
I would hear stories about how the ride supervisors expected a kick-back to give the operators overtime. The tickets seller got it whether we liked it or not.
We would start at 11:30am and work until about 8pm or 11pm to close. Weekends were until midnite and festivals started us an hour earlier.
It was like torture much of the time to be locked in a box waiting for something to do or daunted by the never-ending line.
I saw the film Adventureland to see if they got working in an amusement park right and amazingly they did get a lot right. Especially the supervisors preying on the cute teenage girls.
I had a temp job where I sat at a computer and literally clicked a mouse button for 8 hours straight.

Yes, I think that's it! Thank you, ArdenC!
Chopping cotton. 'Nuff said.
Katie Allison that was some funny stuff! Laughed so hard. Yeah, horses and women be tripping.
marijuana share cropping or process serving. Tied. only uniting thread is i got a gun pulled on me in each setting.

Your story is why I won't donate through canvassers. The way those orgs treat them is shameful, and I'm not going to feed that beast.
In high school I worked as a cashier at Kroger (the parent company of QFC). The area is on the border of suburb and exurb of Atlanta, and even today is a place where nice country folks, mostly blue-collar and not rich, live warily around the SUV-wielding, McMansion subdivision-dwelling imports. My coworkers were mostly high schoolers; they weren't bad. Store management, however, told us in no uncertain terms that if we didn't join the union, they'd find other high schoolers to take our place. An all-union shop was, and is, a rare thing in Georgia, and it soured me on unions for a long time (I would have joined voluntarily but balked at being told I had to if I wanted the job). I still don't think very kindly of the particular union that I joined.

When Bob Barr was trying to find a new seat in the U.S. House after he got gerrymandered out of one, back in the early 2000s, he was one of the SUV-driving horde, buying a McMansion near the Kroger in order to establish residency so he could run again. He came through my line, bought $300 worth of groceries, wrote a check -- and yelled at me for not running the check through the machine fast enough. His wife then yelled at him for yelling at me. I vote progressive and always have (which in exurban Atlanta was difficult); when I got to clock out for my break I went out to my car and called my mom so we could cackle together.

The politest customers were always the construction workers who came in to buy cases of Natty Light. My least favorite customers -- other than Bob Barr -- were the SUV drivers. Two that stand out: the man who yelled at me for not being able to intuit that he was red-green colorblind and thus I was supposed to run the card reader for him (he didn't ask me to do this, just yelled at me), and the man who came through my line right after a woman with a baby paid for milk and eggs with WIC vouchers who saw fit to spend a good five minutes telling me how welfare was evil and if he ran things women like her wouldn't be able to shop in places like this. At the time I was making ten cents over minimum wage.
@45 "But really, the worst job ever was working the circulation desk at a small newspaper. The old people would start calling the second their paper wasn't there on time -- and I mean 7:00:01 am. And they were mean, so mean."

Yep. The meanest ones are always insane over the tiniest things.
Animal control: reaching into a trough of liquid dog shit to clear a drain, which was clogged with a dead puppy. And then there were the times when the walk-in Death Cooler didn't work. You think barrels of dead cats and dogs couldn't be worse, and then they get HOT... not to mention the normal shit-and-euthanasia aspects of the job. And the dumbshit guys who fight with you about neutering their escaped pitbulls. The inevitable, generalized misanthropy creeping into your soul. Etc.
I've had some shitty jobs - paper route at age 11 (up at 5:30 every morning), washed dishes at age 13 (in violation of child labor laws), washed cars at age 15, and wasted two of my best summers doing hard labor for a landscaping business.

The best job was a tie between weed dealer and sperm donor.

The worst, however, was working at Microsoft.
Six months out of college in 2009 (not a good economic year, as all y'all may remember), my grace period ended and my $550/mo student loan payments kicked in. I got the highest paying retail job I could find: the diamond/engagement counter at a small, high end jewelry store.

I am a shit salesperson, and I don't like jewelry, and the diamond industry is evil, and I was in a lesbian relationship in a state where I couldn't get married, so watching rich-ass straight people come in and argue about "the fire of diamonds" before condescending to me about every which thing was torture. To make matters worse, I had to wear business dress (long-sleeve sweater or jacket) in a store that had literally hundreds of lightbulbs in it to illuminate the fucking "fiery" diamonds. It was like 85 degrees and I was in a wool sweater convincing rich people in t-shirts to spend thousands of dollars on an evil monopoly for 13 hours a day, for up 13 consecutive days without a break. To give you a sense of the wealth, I once saw a 16-year-old buy $4000 diamond hoops with cash.

I have a million more specific stories if you want 'em, but I think you can imagine what it was like.
@45: The old people would start calling the second their paper wasn't there on time

Or if the paper was simply left on their step as opposed to inside the screen door, or with a particular side up inside the screen door, or in a special hollow in a bush, or folded, or not folded. Some demanded their paper at 6:00 even though the delivery deadline was 7:00. Sometimes they'd be waiting at the window to make sure their demands were met, or so they could come out and yell at you if you had done it wrong the previous day.

Yet they never seemed to be around when it was time to collect their monthly subscription fee. The supervisor would call you and ask why you hadn't turned in their payment, so you'd make special trips - after dinner or leaving all your friends on the playground - and finally they'd answer, annoyed as all hell, acting as though they were doing you a huge favor by paying their overdue bill, and shorting you a nickel.

Jen, I too, once worked at a Susse Chalet motel, in Woburn, Massachusetts (just outside Boston) back in '88, albeit as the first shift desk clerk. (First shift is the worst, not only because it starts at 7am, but because, unlike 2nd shift, you both check people out - and hence, hear their complaints, and also have to check them in - twice the work that 2nd shift does.)

Anyway, Susse Chalet was a loser chain all the way around, and actually used to be called "Swiss Chalet", but they were sued by I believe a chicken restaurant chain who had the name already, so were forced to change the first word to this weird, nobody-knew-how-to-pronounce it name.

The place employed the biggest collection of bad news low down trash I've ever encountered. Liars and petty thieves and back stabbers and ex or soon to be cons. Our night auditor was a part time prostitute - scary, skanky, chain-smoking older broad with both an 18 yr old, and a nightmare, ridiculously out of control 4 year old who I'm positive had to have been the product of her mother hitting up the guests, which she did as routinely and unsubtle-ly as possible. You just wanted to bathe after leaving the place.

Holy shit, my aunt owned that foam store! The location, the boat upholstery, everything.

Just, holy crap. I never thought i'd hear about that place again.
Well, Emily, in all fairness, you were a thief. Let's hope you're no longer a thief now.
@20: You're right, selling foam wasn't that bad. The job I had stamping the fabric content onto the inside collars of mountains of T-shirts in a dark warehouse for an importer was much worse. The foam job was odd, though, and it was at an odd juncture in my life.

@72: She was great! A bit brusque (which I don't consider a bad thing at all) and quite kind. She taught me the foam business with a lot of patience, much more than someone with an English degree trying to sew boat upholstery probably deserved. Give her my regards?
@70 - I have to agree with a paper route being the worst job. Not because the job was so hard - the worst part of the actual job was probably being chased by various dogs, but that the paperboys had to pay for the papers and then collect from the subscribers. So, if I remember correctly, we paid 15 cents or so for the paper and we were supposed to collect 25 cents. However, despite spending probably twice as much time attempting to collect as spent actually delivering, I think I typically made $5/week for what amounted to approximately 20 hours of work. And that was only because some nice people would tip. If everyone paid, if I remember correctly, it should have worked out to around $30-40/week which was still crap.
@Emily Nokes, Tan family still owns the Higgins DQ. I got food poisoning there after the Pearl Jam show at Adams Center last fall...
Oh, #73, how fucking righteous you are! Jeez, she was sixteen! Yeah, it was stealing but I'm sure she didn't realize that. It's not as if she was giving entire boxes away to cute boys. Granted, I did find it disturbing that she and her co-workers had a big food fight and then just left the mess for someone else. That's a sixteen year old for you, though.

Didn't YOU ever do something semi-criminal/amazingly stupid/obnoxious/childish at that age or have you always been so incredibly without fault?
I am a Nurse and owner of Nit Nurses a natural head lice removal service in Virginia, talk about a weird gig. I cannot complain because I absolutely love my job, but I do not like the looks that I get when I tell people what I do. They immediately get this look on their face as if they do not know what to say, and sometimes I even get their sincere condolences lol. It's certainly a weird "dirty job" but someone has to do it!!!
I'd moved back in with my folks after a hitch in the Army, mostly spent in the former West Germany.
After several unsatisfying jobs, in the beginning of a horrible NE Ohio Winter,I accepted a position as driver/guard with an armored car company. 80% of my coworkers were reserve cops, ex-cops or wannabe cops and (not meaning to paint all police-types with them)one of the largest collectives of assholes I've ever encountered. At one time I'd considered looking into law-enforcement but they cured me of that delusion.
Emily Nokes wasn't taught how to make change by her boss? Playing hooky in 4th grade when making change was taught?
@78 - Not fucking righteous - just not a thief like Emily was and like you support. According to you it's ok to steal a little, just not a lot. Where does that line occur? Perhaps the Enron guys thought they were just stealing a little.

I worked at a movie theater during my high school years, from 15 to 18. I was constantly asked by my classmates to let them in for free or give them free snacks from the concession stand. I always declined to do so and as one of my true friends pointed out - Real friends don't ask you to steal for them, only moochers do that.
"I suppose it wasn't the food fight as much as it was the decision not to clean it up. I mean, summer-only DQ was CLOSING, and there would be a deep, professional clean before the dormancy anyway."

Yeah, and you know who will do that deep, professional clean? Someone else with a shit job. A whole other person whose shitty workday you just made 100x worse. Oh, you were just sixteen? Maybe I'm some kind of fucking anomaly, but I'm pretty sure most of us learn by the time we're SIX that it's not okay to leave a mess for underpaid strangers. Oh, wait, never mind. That's not true. Messes. Messes everywhere, all the time, because people suck. Ugh. Glad you got your whimsical, coming-of-age story out of it...

--A Former Cleaning Lady
Language testing 5 and 6 year olds... I had to ask stupid questions in English and Spanish over and over and over again to squirrely little kids, and then read this dumb story in Spain-Spanish, while the kids I was reading it to were mostly farm-workers' children from Mexico. I didn't know the kids, and would never see them in the classroom. I had to give them a placement grade, based on their knowledge of Spanish-Spanish, rather than the language they knew. Plus, it was in little, hot rooms, during the summer. I would start to fall asleep mid-afternoon, and it was effing torture to stay awake and do exactly the same routine again and again. Adding to the boredom, the faster I got through the tests, the less work would be left to do, so I was motivated to do the test somewhat slowly as an hourly worker. The last thing that made it horrible was that I was counting calories and was super-hungry all the time. I remember eating bag after bag of sugar-free hard candy, and just being soooo tired, hungry and bored.
@82 As an adult and a law-abiding citizen, if I had a friend who worked at a movie theater that didn't offer to let me in for free, that person would no longer be my friend. De minimis non curat lex.
OK,get ready,I am going to kick all of your asses at your jobs...First up is the easter bunny:have you ever talked to the furry community at anthrocon in Pittsburgh every year about how it sucks? Next,the house painter:use a shower cap for your hair and go downwards on the ladder and raise you hand like the statue of liberty,then wave it,brushing the wall,it works better...
Security guard:take a walk and exercise and lay off the coffee,it makes your body more tired,I've done the "graveyard shift" before myself,don't just sit on your fat ass all night...
DQ cone maker:your family and boss is treating you like dog shit on a cone...they think it is a treat and want you to have some,grow two scoops between that cone of yours and say FUCK YOU ALL to them!
Sports reporter:you need to learn math,go back to school...no one is going to save your ass,next time...
Farmhand:try chickens instead...or pigs and cows...:-)
Foam maker:try selling other foam products like shipping peanuts or mattresses or hire the security guard that is in the article...
Brick maker:I know all about stone,use mudbricks or cement instead,it is easer then figuring out if you made the right kind of brick that is strong and not claylike and less stressful...
Hotel maid:need lemon pledge? Mister superman,no,he no home.. Lol..seriously,maid work is not THAT bad once you get into that mindset of carelessness...
SEE? I CAN DO ALL YOUR FUCKING PATHETIC JOBS AND STILL DO MY OWN...you guys at the stranger are weak...I can eat a can of alphabet soup and shit out on paper a better paper than this...

I was a janitor.

At my own high school.

While I was a student.

Please wait...

Comments are closed.

Commenting on this item is available only to members of the site. You can sign in here or create an account here.

Add a comment

By posting this comment, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use.